A day in Waco offers plenty of family fun


By Rachel Madison

WACO — When I think of Waco, the first thing I think of is Magnolia Market, thanks to HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” television show and its stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines. And while Magnolia Market is a must see, there’s a lot more to Waco than just stopping by the silos.

Whether you’re there with your two best friends from college, like I was last month, or you take your whole family, which I’ve also done on a few occasions, Waco is a great place to go for a day trip. Not only is there something for people of all ages to enjoy, but it’s also just a quick 90-minute drive from Liberty Hill.

The obvious first stop when you arrive in Waco is Magnolia Market, located at 601 Webster Ave. The store opens at 9 a.m. daily, except for Sunday when it’s closed. It’s a good idea to get there shortly after it opens. That way you won’t have to wait in line to get into the store. However, be prepared to wait in line for everything else, from perusing the goods to purchasing your items to using the restroom.

And while the lines are long, there’s enough in the store to look at that you won’t feel like you’re waiting to see the next display. It’s obvious that the Gaines family has played a significant role in every aspect of the market. If you’re a fan of the show’s farmhouse style, then chances are you’ll love the market. Come with plenty of spending money—it’s hard to leave the store empty handed. And if you have small children, consider leaving them outside to play on the lawn in the center of the property with a willing family member or friend while you shop.

If you happen to get to the silos before 9 a.m., you could get in line at the Silos Baking Co. for a coffee and breakfast pastry. But keep in mind that the line typically wraps around the building and goes down the sidewalk. Instead, try grabbing a bite to eat from one of the food trucks parked on the property.

The hardest part about eating from one of these food trucks is deciding on which one to order from. Co-town Crepes features sweet and savory crepe dishes, while Cheddar Box offers gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and creative macaroni and cheese dishes. And then there’s Chuck’s Gourmet Popcorn, which will entice you with its smell alone, and The Alabama Sweet Tea company, which promises to serve you the best sweet tea you’ve ever had (and they might be right!).

Before you leave the silos, be sure to check out the Magnolia Seed+Supply shop and garden. The shop is small but sells a variety of gardening tools and décor. It’s a great place to get inspired if you have any backyard garden projects.

The Magnolia Market campus can easily take up an entire morning, but the crowds get old after a few hours. That’s why I recommend heading just around the corner to 5th Street, where you can visit the Dr Pepper Museum & Free Enterprise Institute. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for kids (4 and younger are free), and the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 Noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Here you can learn about the creation and history behind Dr Pepper as well as a variety of other sodas. In addition to the historical aspect, there are also daily “liquid laboratory” experiments for museum goers to participate in, as well as many exhibits that are interactive for kids and adults alike. The museum is also a great place to grab a Dr Pepper float or ice cream soda (that’s my favorite!) at the onsite soda shop.

If you have kids with you—or you’re a kid at heart—a couple of other great stops in Waco are the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum Complex.

The zoo, located at 1701 N. 4th Street, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children (3 and younger are free).

Cameron Park Zoo sits on 52 acres and boasts more than 1,700 animals living on site. The exhibits are well done and there are a wide variety of wild animals to see—from white-handed gibbons and bald eagles to elephants and giraffes.

The Mayborn Museum Complex, on Baylor University’s campus, is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children age 2 and up.

The two-story museum is completely interactive. From the children’s corner where kids can pretend to work from a food truck or deliver the mail, to the water and bubbles room where you can encase yourself in a bubble, there’s something for everyone. Other exhibits focus on natural and cultural history, including one highlighting the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which displays original casts of the fossils beneath a glass floor; and a historic village, which provides a glimpse into the past by bringing to life a community in the 1890s.

After a full day of exploring Waco, you’d be crazy not to stop for dinner at Twisted Root Burger Co. before heading back to Liberty Hill. Although the restaurant isn’t unique to Waco—its first location opened in Dallas in 2006—it is worth a stop for a hearty meal. The restaurant, located at 801 S. 2nd Street, is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Twisted Root sits in what used to be a play house. It’s been rehabbed into a quirky eatery with colorful murals inside and out, as well as four huge projector screens on opposing walls that are used to show sports and popular music videos. When it comes to the food, I recommend ordering the Big Tex burger or the Spicy Goat burger, the Treat Yo’self fries and the Fat Elvis custard shake. It’s not a low-calorie meal, but trust me, it’s worth it.

It may be impossible to pack every Waco sight into just one day trip, but fortunately, no matter what you choose to do, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something for everyone in the family to enjoy.